With its sexy, controversial themes and class consciousness, theres tremendous present-day relevance in Thomas Hardys tragedy Tess of the dUrbervilles.
In Trishna, director/ writer Michael Winterbottom transports the Victorian tale of lost innocence and carnal disgrace to modern India, where rural women are still treated as chattel and illicit intercourse can spell lifelong shame. While the film never delves deep enough into its characters emotions to be truly spellbinding, it is worth seeing.
Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) plays Trishna, a humble country girl who teaches native dancing at a Rajasthan tourist resort. Jay (Riz Ahmed), the Indian-born, English-educated son of a wealthy hotel owner, is instantly hooked by the 19-year-olds otherworldly beauty.
At first the handsome newcomer appears to be a savior. When a car crash leaves Trishnas father unfit to work, Jay rescues her family by offering the naive stunner a well-paid job at his Jaipur hotel. Hes smitten by her innocence as much as her looks, but as he woos and wins her (or possibly takes her by force; the film withholds the precise details), Jay refashions her to his preferences.
Winterbottom and his cinematographer Marcel Zyskind give the story a relentless visual energy. Their half-documentary portrait of India is a teeming marketplace of swirling color and incessant bustle.
Trishna brings Hardys grim skepticism alive as clearly as shadows under Indias punishing sun.